This year end blog comes to you from both myself and the co-founder, Chairman and CEO of NOW … my partner in life and husband Onno Poortier.
The December issue of itmustbeNOW Magazine is about LOOKING AHEAD and we spoke with leading Travel Editors and journalist on WHERE WE ARE WITH SUSTAINABLE TRAVEL and their focus in the year ahead. On December 4, Onno was the opening speaker at the International Luxury Travel Mart in Cannes on the topic of sustainability and he spoke heart to heart as a Hotelier to his peers, to galvanise the industry to be a Force for Good.
We are living in a changing world with more extreme events. Carbon is the main contributor to global warming since the 50’s … and methane gas a close second … and the risks to our health and the environment from climate change are substantial and far reaching. According to last year’s WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM survey of 750 economists, the climate crisis is the #1 risk to global economies.
The climate is changing faster than predicted and every year we are witnessing new records in climate extremes with increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, more intense storms, and retreating Arctic sea ice. This impacts our world, affect safety and lives, tourism assets and infrastructure. It increases business risk and insurance in vulnerable locations.
Water shortage threatens our food production and energy supply … increase costs … and puts additional stress on governments struggling with poverty and social tensions … posing the threat of war and terror.
1.2 BILLION international trips were made last year … and by 2030, it will be nearly 2 BILLION. Add local travel to this and we contribute massively in both a positive and negative way.
Tourism is a good development tool … but it comes at a cost, competes with local population for resource such as water, leaves a trail of pollution, and comes with a carbon cost to bring the travellers there. We are seeing the challenges worldwide … with serious biodiversity and climate change issues … and with overcrowding that cause tensions between host destinations and visitors in Amsterdam, Angkor Wat, Barcelona, Dubrovnik and Venice.
There are over 5 TRILLION pieces of plastic in our oceans … they harm countless seabirds, turtles, and ocean mammals … and they break down into tiny nano plastic sponges that soak up toxic waste … and they are in the seafood we serve and eat … so it is now also in us.
What will our world look like in 20 years? This is in our lifetime. Could we be the generation that help solve the issue of climate change and the issue of extreme poverty?
We share one planet … so we are all in this together. Sustainability is about our INTEGRITY and our RESILIENCE and SURVIVAL. And it means LIFE for future generations.
There is light at the end of the doom and gloom tunnel. There are solutions in place to build RESILIENCE and there is increasing awareness and changing behaviors.
The Paris Agreement and The Sustainable Development Goals demand more evidence and action for sustainability initiatives; and UNWTO met with country members in Chengdu this mid September to start treaty discussions to make sustainability mandatory in the travel industry.
Global wind energy capacity has exceeded 15x than the expected goal … and solar energy exceeded by 68x last year … with annual costs going down by 10% each year.
There is more pressure on the travel industry to address environmental impacts and carbon emissions. Governments demand disclosure and investors seek to understand the carbon risks associated with their investments.
There are solutions in building design, … energy, water and supply-chain management, … accredited sustainability programmes and passionate employees.
Over 40 countries have banned plastic bags. Ruwanda checks suitcases at the airport and confiscates plastic bags. India is considering a ban on the use of packaged plastic water bottles in hotels by March next year.
Several Online Travel Agents reported that over 30% of global travellers stayed in one or more eco-friendly accommodation in 2016. This year, over 65% expressed this intention.
We are now very aware of the challenges that face the planet and what a responsible company should be doing to manage its operational footprint. We can also be understanding and we know that delivering sustainable performance is not easy. What counts is for companies to step-up and be accountable … be transparent and demonstrate that they practice what they preach and show annual progress. We will support companies with responsible practices, … but we are skeptical of most marketing messages … and we have an internal BS Detector when it comes to the green spin.
There is a Crisis of Trust in our world … and public confidence in business, government and media ‘to do the right thing’ continues to drop. This year, we witnessed the American leader who inspired a new spirit of activism among the citizens in his country and abroad … and they marched together in defiance, stood up for their beliefs and demanded change.
There is progress in the travel industry … but it is marginal. With a rapidly changing climate, we need an accelerated response … more radical change … and not a fallacy of incremental change. Having a healthy planet must be our priority! We all expect safer, more responsible destinations and accommodations when we travel. But simply saying that they care … or saying that they are committed to action is no longer good enough. Greenwash and poor environmental and social performance are no longer acceptable.
Sustainability will redefine the luxury travel experience. It is NOT about perfection, unparalleled service, or being ‘The Best in the World’. It is about stepping up and being ‘The Best FOR OUR World’.
We have a choice, a voice and a wallet. Change must start with us. Collectively, let us say YES to hope, YES to bold action, YES to carbon offsetting and YES to sustainable travel.
As we end 2017 in deep reflection of our rapidly changing world, let us reflect on the value of ‘sustainability’ … it will define us as a traveller … and most important, it will define us as an individual, a parent and a human being.
It must be NOW!